What are your inspirations in writing Winter's Shadow?
The major inspiration behind Winter’s Shadow came from a general dissatisfaction with what I was reading in the Paranormal genre. Everything seemed highly derivative of Twilight, emphasizing soap opera instead of exploring the rich creative potential the supernatural/fantasy genre offers. I wanted to write a paranormal where the romance felt a little more real than the usual dewy-eyed stuff. I also wanted to use the supernatural aspects not only to induce wonder and terror, but also as metaphor. Teenagers think they’re immortal until they’re confronted with the death of a loved one or face death themselves and I wanted to write about that shift in perception without having to resort to dry realism. A lofty ambition I know, but why does a YA paranormal have to be light and disposable?
As for the inspiration behind the supernatural aspects of Winter’s Shadow - the Demori, The Dead Lands, the Bane, the Skivers – that took a lot of time and effort to work out. From the beginning, I knew I didn’t want to write about vampires or werewolves or angels or fairies so I set myself the task of creating something new. After laboring for weeks on aborted outlines I eventually found my inspiration in, of all places, a cemetery. Waverly Cemetery to be precise, on Sydney’s coast.
I’d just started jogging in one of my periodic futile attempts to whip myself into shape, and on this particular day my jogging route took me into Waverly Cemetery. It was just on sunset, the landscape was washed in blood red light and long shadows – exactly the sort of place where spooky stories are born. As I was weaving my way through the graves, I noticed I wasn’t alone. There was a teenage girl taking pictures of the tombstones. When I drew near she took a photo of me and that small insignificant action started the gears of my imagination whirring. I wondered what would happen if there was something strange about the photograph when she developed it. By the time I got home I had the scene where Winter first encounters Blake roughly worked out. If only the rest of the story had come as easily!
Which character did you enjoy writing most?
As fond as I am of Winter and Blake, I actually preferred writing about Madeleine and Ariman. Often, I thought I should have just written the whole book about those two. Something about the late 1800’s European setting just resonated with me. Caleb was a lot of fun to write as well. It’s generally a lot more fun writing evil characters than good ones.
Did you do any research before writing Winter's Shadow? If yes, what is the research you did?
I didn’t do a whole lot of research though I did investigate the layout of Paris in the late 1800’s just so the opening prologue made logistical sense. I also checked some architectural terms for when I described the Velasco Place. Ultimately though I’m quite a lazy writer and prefer making stuff up rather than research.
If Winter's Shadow was to be a movie and you could choose the cast, which actor or actress would you pick to play Winter and Blake?
I love questions like this. Okay, first off who would I choose for Winter? Mmm...let me see. Recently, I watched Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones. It was a mess of a movie though one of the positive things I took away from it was the lead performance by Saoirse Ronan (thank God this isn’t a LIVE interview as I have no idea how to pronounce her first name!). I think she’d make a brilliant Winter. As for Blake, my pick would be Jeremy Sisto who played Billy in HBO’s amazing drama Six Feet Under. Unfortunately, he’s pushing forty so I’d probably have to jump back ten years in time to get him at the appropriate early twenty-something age. They can do wonders with CGI these days so you never know. I‘d specifically avoid one of the handsome guys you see on the Vampire Diaries or something. Exceedingly good looking people bore me visually. Beauty arises from our flaws not in spite of them.
Can we expect to see more of Blake in the sequel, Winter's Light?
Yes, though I can’t say how for fear of spoiling the surprises of the book. I will mention this, I don’t cheat with how I bring Blake back into the story. It makes sense, in terms of the rules I’ve set up for the Demori and the Dead Lands.
During spare time, do you read YA books as well? If so, please name a few recent reads that you really enjoy.
The most recent YA novel I’ve read is Clive Barker’s ABARAT. Like all his stuff, it was brimming over with astonishingly imaginative set pieces and design, though I think if pressed, I still prefer his THIEF OF ALWAYS. This may change once I finish the series. Neil Gaiman’s GRAVEYARD BOOK is something I return to quite frequently. There’s something beautifully melancholy about the book that affects me every time I pick it up. Also, I just have a giant author crush on Gaiman in general. It’s a little unhealthy actually. On the Aussie front I’ve just discovered Jessica Shirvington who is a very talented local author. Her Violet Eden Chapters are a great example of YA paranormal fiction and definitely worth checking out. A non-YA book I’ve read recently is Jonathan Franzen’s FREEDOM which I can’t stop thinking about. Initially, I found it kind of pretentious and annoyingly literary and then before I knew it I was hooked.
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Thank you for your time, M.J! Now are we all interested to read the book? Order it here from Fishpond!